ABOUT MARC: Q&A

How long have you lived in Montgomery County?

I was born in DC and moved to Montgomery County when I was pretty young - I attended McKenney Hills Elementary School, Montgomery Hills Junior High School, and Einstein High School. After attending college at the University of Maryland, my wife and I raised our family of six in Takoma Park - my daughter Jamie and my sons Josh, Dougie and John. John and Dougie, who we fostered, have Down syndrome, and John, now 55, still lives with me and my partner Robin, while Jamie, my son-in-law Victor, and my grandchildren live around the corner, in a house I built.

Marc, his daughter, Jamie Iwugo (second from left) and grandchildren (left to right) Mahalia, Kai, Lelia, and Ani. 

How did you get interested in public policy?

My observation of racial injustice is a large part of what motivated me to get involved in politics. Growing up, I witnessed blockbusting firsthand when a real estate agent came to my door to talk to my mom. The idea that my mother was being told that Black families moving into a neighborhood would depress the property values and destroy the neighborhood sounded wrong to me then. By 1958, most of my friends were Black. My growing realization was that they weren’t treated the same way I was and didn’t have the same opportunities I had. I marched in Dr. King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and got involved in the civil rights movement, and when I went to the University of Maryland, I worked to desegregate the campus, College Park businesses, and local apartments. I also got actively involved in the anti-war movement.

 

I started out doing community and tenant organizing in Montgomery County around 1980 and was active in numerous resident efforts for more responsible land-use policies, including the fight to prevent a mega mall in downtown Silver Spring and build street-facing retail instead. I ran for elected office because I thought I could make more of an impact on these and other issues in more systemic ways than I could ever make given three minutes to testify in front of a microphone.

What did you do prior to being elected Montgomery County Executive in 2018?

I represented the entire county as an at-large County Councilmember since 2006. At the time of the 2018 election I chaired the Public Safety Committee and served on the Education Committee. I also represented the County Council at the Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. My proudest accomplishments include:

Strengthening tenant rights through legislation after serving on the Tenant Work Group;

  • Advancing paid family and sick leave legislation;

  • Saving taxpayers millions of dollars by insisting on more efficient building designs;

  • Leading two successful efforts to raise the minimum wage, which is on its way to $15 an hour;

  • Restoring small business assistance funding;

  • Developing and advocating for the bus rapid transit (BRT) system to connect people from where they live to where they work;

  • Making developers pay more for schools and traffic solutions;

  • Taking the lead in the successful fight to save Ten Mile Creek from overdevelopment;

  • Shielding the C&O Canal from construction in the viewshed;

  • Fighting for the elimination of cosmetic pesticides and tire waste on playgrounds and fields;

  • Working with residents from Long Branch to Bethesda to Clarksburg to protect neighborhoods by improving master plans; and

  • Giving a second chance to people with criminal records by “banning the box” on job applications that asks about convictions and incarceration.

What did you do before you joined the County Council in 2006?

I was elected to the Takoma Park City Council from 1987 and served until 2006. As part of that body, I was involved in immigrant rights, sanctuary legislation, strengthening the city’s rent stabilization law, passing a law recognizing domestic partnerships, creating day laborer sites, and introducing and passing resolutions opposing both Iraq wars.

From 1989 to 2006, I also taught at Rolling Terrace Elementary School, one of the highest-poverty public schools in Montgomery County. I ended up attending Johns Hopkins to earn a Master’s in Teaching and I taught fourth grade for 14 years and fifth grade for three years.

My experience teaching was what reinforced to me that, if we really want to close the opportunity gap and help kids succeed, we need to address the destabilizing impacts of poverty. Kids experience stress when they don’t know where they’re going to live the next month, and it’s really hard to ask a kid whose stomach hurts on Monday morning because she hasn’t eaten a hot meal since Friday lunch to focus on school. I’ve seen firsthand how helping families economically can have a major impact on kids’ lives.

I also have business experience, having worked for both a large corporation and a small local business. I understand the challenges of meeting payroll and being successful in the marketplace.